Saturday, May 9, 2009

Star Trek (2009)

Adapting a pre-existing property, whether from a novel, a comic book, or a television series, can be difficult for a filmmaker. Die hard fans of the property will have certain expectations for the film, while at the same time the filmmaker must make a movie that will entertain the ordinary movie goer as well as the die hard fan. Perhaps no other filmmaker had a more difficult job than J. J. Abrams in creating his movie version of the classic series Star Trek. To this day the series has a legion of fiercely followers. What is more, Star Trek has made such an indelible mark on Anglo-American pop culture that even people who have not seen an episode of the series can identify its characters and even its catchphrases quite easily. In many respects, J. J. Abrams had a more difficult job in bringing Star Trek to the screen than Peter Jackson had in bringing Lord of the Rings to the screen or Zack Snyder had in bringing Watchmen to the screen. Fortunately, I suspect that if most Star Trek fans and, perhaps more importantly, the average movie goer is like me, then he or she will not be disappointed in J. J. Ambrams' reboot of Star Trek.

Among the biggest hurdles in bringing any television series to the big screen often lies in its castings. It is not enough for an actor to look like the one who originated the part, he or she must also capture the spirit of the character as he or she was originally portrayed. Fortunately, the cast of Star Trek succeeds admirably in keeping to the spirit of the original characters. Indeed, Zachary Quinto's performance as Spock is uncanny. Not only does Quinto look like Leonard Nimoy, but he sounds like him as well. Karl Urban is also remarkable as Dr. McCoy, capturing the essence of the character perfectly. Chris Pine portrays Kirk's humour and even his arrogance perfectly, and without William Shatner's peculiar speech patterns (which I think only Shatner could do well...). Going beyond the original series' regular characters, Bruce Greenwood (from the late, great series Nowhere Man) does very well as Captain Pike (whom Trekkers will remember was the captain of the Enterprise in the first pilot, "The Cage'), as does Eric Bana as the villain Nero.

While the cast does very well with the material, I am sure the question on many Trekkers' minds is whether the movie itself is loyal to the original conception of the series. I have to answer that it is. The movie does not depart in any significant way from the mythology of the original series except one (I won't reveal that here, but Trekkers will know it when they see it). What is more, there are some wonderful references to the original series and even one reference to Enterprise which I suspect only Trekkers will get. As to whether Star Trek is capable of entertaining those who are not die hard Star Trek fans, I believe it is. The characters are three dimensional and the dialogue is intelligent. The plot moves along at a very good pace. And there is no shortage of action. For those people who are not Trekkers, I can guarantee that you will also be thoroughly entertained.

Overall, in my opinion Star Trek is the best movie in the franchise except for Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan. J. J. Abrams has accomplished what few others could (not even Gene Roddenberry with Star Trek; the Next Generation)--he has captured successfully captured the feel of the original series. Star Trek is a movie that will not only entertain die hard fans, but the average person as well. Now I can only hope that it does well enough to warrant a sequel...

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